The USC Aiken menís basketball team went 1-1 on a recently-completed road trip. And it returns home to a game against Georgia College tonight at the Convocation Center right where it left, at the top of the standings in the Peach Belt Conference East Division.
At 10-5 overall and 6-2 in league play, USCA is currently tied with Armstrong Atlantic State for first place in the division. Second-place Augusta State is just a game behind, with UNC Pembroke also very much in the thick of the race for first place. But the Pacers control their position in the standings and will look to stay atop of the fray in tonightís game, scheduled to tip-off at 7:30 p.m.
Georgia College is limping into the Convocation Center, where USCA is 7-1 this season. The Bobcats (6-9, 2-6) have lost five games in a row, with four of those contest decided by at least 10 points. That includes a 25-point loss on Monday at Augusta State, leaving Georgia College alone in last place in the PBC West Division.
It comes as no surprise that a team with such a lackluster record would be toward the bottom of the league statistically. The Bobcats are second-to-last in the PBC in both points per game (65.5) and field-goal percentage (41.9). They only have one player averaging more than 10 points per game in league play, with Scott Fergusonís 14.8 leading the way. Beyond Ferguson, whoís also the teamís leading rebounder, Georgia College doesnít have any particularly impressive players, from a statistical standpoint. As a team, the Bobcats have been outscored, outrebounded and barely have more assists than turnovers this season.
Those numbers could lead to a big night for the Pacers, especially if their defense is clicking. That could lead to several high-percentage scoring opportunities via transition, where the athletic and versatile Pacers can run with anybody. Senior point guard Reímon Nelson is dangerous with the ball in his hands in those situations. He has a knack for knowing whether to pass Ė heís close to averaging seven assists per game Ė or to keep it himself. Nelson is second on USCA with an average of 13.5 points per game, many of which come at the free-throw line, where heís shooting 79 percent on a team-best 86 attempts.
Santoine Butlerís tied with Nelson in scoring and is second on the Pacers with 6.3 rebounds per game. Heís a difference maker on defense too, averaging an impressive three blocked shots per game.
But the Pacers have shown this season that theyíre a versatile team, with the likes of Paul Larsen (12 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Ronald Zimmerman (16.1 ppg, 60 made 3-pointers) as well as Jesse Seilern and Kinley Branch, who have combined to total more than 18 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists per game. Theyíre all capable of making critical plays, and have contributed in one way or another in almost every USCA win this season, including Mondayís 85-79 triumph at North Georgia.
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than a dozen years after graduating from Syracuse University.
What: USC Aiken menís basketball
Who: USCA (10-5, 6-2 PBC) vs. Georgia College (6-9, 2-6 PBC)
Where: Convocation Center
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
USCA: Reímon Nelson, Sr. G. With 995 points in his career, Nelsonís on the verge of becoming the 10th player in USCAís Division II era to score 1,000 or more points.
Georgia College: Scott Ferguson, Sr. F. Fergusonís the Bobcats leader in scoring (14.8) and rebounding (6.9) and their only player scoring in double digits in PBC play.
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